To Azimuth begins with the disappearance of Eli Windham in 1978. Three years out from a third tour in Vietnam, Eli has a history of erratic behavior driven by the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with the trauma of his experiences at war. With the help of his sister, Susannah, he had been taking action to put his life back together, getting a job at a tire factory and attempting to break his spell of isolation deep in the woods of Alabama. Things seem to be going well, until he vanishes.
The police are hesitant to investigate – they've dealt with Eli's drinking and drug use before and expect he'll show up soon, hung-over and apologetic. Susannah refuses to believe this interpretation of events and convinces her other brother, Nate, to return to Alabama from Colorado to help her find Eli. As they search, they begin to find evidence that Eli may not have just disappeared; he may have been taken by something extraterrestrial.
As a narrative-focused game, revealing too much further than this basic setup would be detrimental to the experience of playing the game. What can be said is that the story does go beyond this initial situation, throwing any assumptions into doubt and pulling players into a world involving space agencies, truth control, conspiracy theories, familial ties, and mental illness.
In To Azimuth, players take on the role of Susannah or Nate in their search for Eli. Each character has their own separate story, though the narratives of each intersect and intertwine in many ways. To Azimuth is, at its heart, an adventure game. Much of the game will entail exploring environments and rummaging about to look for pieces of information and clues, many of which will be locked behind environmental puzzles rooted in real-world logic. How deep players want to go into this exploration is up to them; a lot of information will be hidden in the self-contained environments (and not all of it necessarily true), but much of it can be ignored if the player would rather main-line the story. However, choosing to ignore all of this evidence will have an effect on the game's story.
The game will contain a sizeable amount of dialogue, with essentially every line spoken by the player character presented as a choice. Through these dialogue choices, as well as through decisions made outside of dialogue, players shape Susannah and Nate into their own unique take on the character. This will affect the story of the game in both conspicuous and subtle ways; while every decision may not always completely change the outcome, it will color the story very differently based on the way that the characters are being played.
Susannah is the youngest of the siblings, leading what could be considered the most normal life of the three. She lives with her boyfriend, working a cashier job at a local grocery store. She and Eli are still relatively close, and she was very active in getting Eli to face his demons. His disappearance shakes Susannah; based on all outward appearances, Eli was finally coming to terms with his new life.
Eli and Nate were once very close. Only a year apart in age, they were nearly inseparable throughout their childhood and adolescence. Nate was drafted into service in Vietnam at the same time as Eli, and the two served in the same unit for three tours of duty before the end of the war. After his final tour, Eli moved to Colorado, claiming that he could not stomach living in Alabama anymore. He hasn't been back for three years, barely maintaining contact with Susannah and Eli in that time.
The eldest Windham child, Eli served with Nate in Vietnam for three tours, returning home after his final tour nearly a stranger to Susannah. Upon his return, he purchased a secluded house and isolated himself, leaving his deceased parents' home to Susannah. He initially struggled to adapt to life outside of war, falling into drug and alcohol use. In the months leading to his disappearance, he had started a union job at a tire factory and seemed to be on a path to becoming more well-adjusted.
One of the concepts that sparked the initial development of To Azimuth was the idea of forming characters through decisions and gameplay that could then be shared not only between one player's playthroughs, but between people. For example, playing through as Suzannah will provide the option to import the decisions you've made into a playthrough as Nate. Characters can also be shared with others, essentially inserting the Suzannah or Nate that you have created through your decisions into another person's game.
This won't always mean a 1:1 interpretation of what Nate or Susannah has said or done, since room has to be left for flexibility in that second playthrough. Instead, this involves more broad personality-based strokes. Players are building a character while they play the game, and sharing that character will place their specific Nate or Susannah into another game, where they will act and react in ways that make sense to the way that they were initially played.
It is not difficult to point to the primary source of inspiration for the game's storyline: an unabiding love for science fiction. Its alien abduction mystery especially is born from a fondness for the X-Files and stories of its ilk, as well as a childhood fascination with alien abduction accounts. That said, To Azimuth is a story that is akin to this genre, but isn't beholden to it. Its inspirations are many, and the hope is that it will be able to sit alongside its influences without attempting to imitate them.
Setting the game in Alabama was a decision made due to personal ties to the region and a complicated relationship with Alabama in particular. The era was chosen primarily due to a certain affinity for 1970's sci-fi, but also because of the social backdrop that the time period provides. 1978 finds Alabama fourteen years removed from the Civil Rights Act but still in turmoil regarding its history and its place in a world quickly becoming more connected, creating a tension that factors into and informs the game's narrative.
A full original soundtrack is being made by Neutrino Effect, who has been the musician on all of [bracket]games' projects. The following is a selection of demos made for To Azimuth:
Writer/Designer/Artist: Zach Sanford
Zach is a game designer and a writer who has been working as [bracket]games for the past two years. During that time, he has been the writer/designer/artist on [out], Letters to Babylon and, most recently, Three Fourths Home.
Soundtrack: Neutrino Effect
Neutrino Effect is an electronic music artist whose previous work can be found here. They have provided the music for all of [bracket]games' previous releases.
Vocals/Astrophysics Consultant: Tina Riley
Tina is a graduate student and teacher of physics, serving as a consultant for some of the story points in To Azimuth. Furthermore, she works with Neutrino Effect to provide vocals for music and provides voice work for Susannah.
You can also check out our past projects here.
SUPPORTER: We appreciate every bit of help in getting To Azimuth made, and we'll let you know it. All backers will get an e-mail from us, their name listed in the credits as a Kickstarter supporter, and our eternal gratitude.
BASIC EDITION: This is a downloadable, DRM-free copy of To Azimuth when it releases. It will be the same version that will release on Steam, Humble, etc, and will include keys for all of the distribution platforms that we launch on.
KICKSTARTER EDITION: This includes the download of To Azimuth, but also includes a Kickstarter-exclusive prologue. This prologue will not be released anywhere else, whether as DLC or in any other form. It is, in every sense of the word, exclusive to those who help get this game made.
The prologue will not contain critical story content. Instead, it serves as an extra bit of meaningful interaction and world-building that will not detract from the main game if it is missed. It is our way of saying thank you to our backers with extra content. As currently written, the prologue stands to be 30-45 minutes long.
COMPLETE EDITION: Along with the Kickstarter Edition of the game, this tier also includes a download of the complete original soundtrack by Neutrino Effect upon the game's release as well as developer notes, commentary, and other behind-the-scenes material.
POSTER EDITION: This tier includes the Complete Edition of the game and a poster featuring this design:
Supplies are limited on this tier, so act quickly if you'd like this thing on your wall!
NAMEPLATE EDITION: Backers at this tier will have their name in the game's environment, such as in this one:
Those nameplates that all say “Eli?” Those will be populated by backers' names at this level.
SUPER SUPPORTER: The backers at this level will receive the complete edition of To Azimuth, their name in the game, the poster, as well as special placement in the game's credits. And gratitude even more eternal, if that were possible.
EXTRA SUPER SUPPORTER: Backers at this level will receive all of the rewards from the "SUPER SUPPORTER" level, with the addition of a second poster featuring different artwork (the design is currently TBD) and a physical copy of the game's soundtrack.
(Also, forgive the lack of creativity in naming this tier)
SIGNED EDITION: Includes all of the rewards of the EXTRA SUPER supporter (two posters, complete edition of the game, name in-game, special listing in credits, two posters, and a physical copy of the soundtrack), but the two posters and soundtrack will be signed by the team.
SCRIPT EDITION: Includes two posters and a physical copy of the soundtrack all signed by the team, your name in-game, special listing in credits, and a high-quality, signed physical copy of To Azimuth's narrative script.
ABDUCTEE EDITION: This tier includes the lot: Complete edition of To Azimuth, two signed posters, a signed physical copy of the soundtrack, a signed physical copy of the game's script, special listing in the credits, and a character named after you and modeled after your likeness (in the style of the rest of the characters, of course) in the game's story.
The base goal of $20,000 serves as the baseline we've calculated to get the game made. While we haven't set any specific stretch goals, any money raised beyond that point will be used to make the game better without dramatically increasing scope, with our first priorities being hiring testers, recording full voice acting, and translating the game.
Target Distribution Platforms: Steam (vote on Greenlight HERE), Humble, Desura, Itch.io
For more information, including additional screenshots and our weekly dev log, head on over to To Azimuth's official website.
Risks and challenges
Any video game project is a massive challenge, but if handled well can be kept manageable. The scope of To Azimuth has been narrowed to the point where we feel comfortable in our ability to complete it, and we have no plans to broaden that scope. The groundwork for the game's mechanics has been coded and a dozen environments have been completed or mostly completed as of this writing. At this point in the game's development, the main focus is creating the content, since we've already built the foundation of the game's core mechanics.
Risk is also a component of any video game project, especially one funded on Kickstarter. As a very small team, the risk of delays is a very real one. We believe that our target release in Fall 2015 provides us with ample time to create and fine-tune the game. However, as a tiny team with one coder/artist, if anything were to happen to take one of us out of commission for a while, delays would be unavoidable.
A major component of our plan to avoid crashing and burning relies heavily on being open about the development of the game. We plan to update our backers weekly regarding the game's development, and include some kind of news whether it be a new screenshot, video, podcast, or even a simple “it's business as usual” to let our backers know that we are hard at work to deliver the game that they have funded.
- (30 days)